FORT SMITH, Ark. – Taxpayers and parents in the Fort Smith school district sent a message to the school board when they voted two out of office last week.
The board voted to change Southside High School’s “Rebel” mascot and “Dixie” fight song in July after a racially motivated church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina inspired calls to ban symbols of the Old South, KHBS reports.
The issue came to a boil in August when a group called “Save Our Rebels” announced plans to fight the change and preserve the school’s current image. In a press release, local attorney Joey McCutchen – who filed an injunction to prevent the changes – alleged two school board members recently swore under oath that there was never an official board vote to approve the move.
“Is the school board really confused or are they just trying to bamboozle the public? It is time for the school board to stop being so flippant about spending our tax dollars,” McCutchen said.
Voters expressed their frustrations with the situation last week by ousting two board member up for re-election who allegedly approved the changes, though a special panel is still moving forward with the mascot replacement process, the Associated Press reports.
School officials already changed the high school’s fight song to a new version of the “Wabash Cannonball.”
“A board member who lost last week said reversing the mascot vote would lead to chaos in the community,” according to the news service.
McCutchen, meanwhile, argues the name change cost estimate obtained from the district through a public information request makes it clear the move will likely cost much more than anticipated.
“It is time (for) the school board to listen to the community who unequivocally want to keep the Southside High School ‘Rebels’ name, and the history of excellence that it represents,” he said.
McCutchen wrote in court documents the cost of the change could cause irreparable harm to local taxpayers.
A 30-person group headed by Southside principal Wayne Haver met Monday to begin the process of selecting a new mascot for next school year, The City Wire reports.
The school’s “Dixie” fight song and “Rebels” mascot has been associated with the school since its founding in 1963. A school board committee in the 1980s pushed to change the mascot, but that effort failed.
Haver told members of the panel that six schools in Arkansas also have the Rebels mascot, 15 have a tiger mascot, and several other mascots – eagles, bulldogs, panthers, warriors and lions – are used by 14 schools. In total, 141 Arkansas schools use animal mascots and 46 use people mascots.
A select few are more creative: the Lavaca Golden Arrows, Alma Airedales, and Cave City Cavemen, Haver said.
The panel hopes to narrow down some possibilities through three meetings in October, with the goal of concluding the process before Christmas break in order to design and purchase new sports uniforms in time for next year, The City Wire reports.